Statement by South Africa : GEO Plenary XV 31 October to 01 November 2018, Kyoto, Japan

Humbulani Mudau

Head of the delegation

Department of Science and Technology, South Africa

at Kyoto, Japan


31 October to 01 November 2018


The Co-Chairs,


The Director of/ and GEO Secretariat,

Representatives of Member States and Participating Organisations

Distinguished delegates/Ladies and gentleman. 


South Africa would like to thank the GEO Secretariat, the Japanese government and its stakeholders/ entities for organising and hosting the 15th GEO Plenary and side events. The support of the GEO Participating Organisations is highly acknowledged.

We would like to congratulate members that have recently joined the GEO community. We believe that this will truly cultivate and improve the diversity within our membership, which is essential for the fulfilment of our vision to build an operational and functional Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS).

The GEO programme Board needs to also be commended for the excellent work in the coordination of the GEO Work Programme and aligning the Work Programme with GEO’s Strategic Objectives and Core Functions and resources committed by Member States and Participating Organisations.


South Africa and Africa at large continues to benefit from GEO through international partnerships that continue to develop and grow our Earth Observations (EO) capabilities. One example is the GEOGLAM initiative in which the South African Space Agency (SANSA), Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and the Agricultural Research Council (ARC) are active contributors on behalf of South Africa.


SANSA co-leads the coordination of the GEOGLAM Rangeland and Pasture Productivity (RAPP) initiative.  The multi-stakeholder AfriCultureRes initiative will also assist on addressing pressing issues relating to food security, and also assist on the development of weather and climate products for the African region. AfriGEOSS and GEO will assist on ensuring that the objectives of the EO initiatives are aligned with African Union-Agenda 2063 and the UN-SDGs. We would also like to acknowledge the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency “JAXA” on their capacity building activities in South Africa, especially on SAR processing, applications and products development.


The role played by the GEO Participating organisations is highly acknowledged. Few examples are the Africa Data Cube initiatives seeking to harness satellite and EO technologies to address food security issues as well as issues related to deforestation, agriculture and water access.  SANSA co-leads the Data and Infrastructure Working Group of AfriGEOSS and is participating in a multi-institutional multidisciplinary initiative to establish an African Data Intensive Research Cloud. We encourage co-location and exploitation of computing capabilities in the region, i.e. the SKA.


The role played by GMES &Africa through the development of environmental products is acknowledged. South Africa and Africa at large are urbanising at a rapid rate, the work done by the Joint Research Commission (JRC) and SANSA on Human Settlement monitoring and urban dynamics is critical for South Africa and the region at large for efficient and effective urban planning for South Africa/Africa in order to cope with rapid urbanisation and projected population growth. The established SA-GEO Human Settlement Working Group that is aimed at promoting the use and sharing of EO human settlement data to support sustainable development in the country, is our contribution and will ensure easy access to human settlement data.


South Africa’s EO industry has played a critical role on mitigating the drought in the Western Cape province, South Africa. The work on dam level monitoring, the water quality products (by GeoTerraImage, Cyanolake, Water Research Commission and the National Department of Water and Sanitation), demonstrated the value of EO to local authorities. The ever growing local EO and geospatial industry played a critical role on the development of the updated Land Cover and Land Use change for South Africa and the SADC region, jointly by the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform and GeoTerraImage, whom also play a critical role on the AfriGEOSS Africa Land Cover initiative.  


We are currently serving on the Steering and Management Committee of GEO Blue Planet and we are looking at ways to align its activities with our Blue Economy initiative “the National Oceans and Coast Information Management System”. The National-OCIMS is reaching its maturity, Decision Support Tools (DeST) within the systems include the Integrated Vessel Tracking Decision Support Tool (IVT DeST), the Harmful Algal Bloom (HAB DeST), Sea level Rise and Flooding DeST, Sea State, Search and Rescue, Marine Spatial Planning, oil spill detection and monitoring.


South Africa’s small satellite “CubeSat” programme will contribute critical satellite based AIS “the VDES system” for vessel tracking and related products. The open access to SAR data could ensure a successful management and exploitation of Africa’s oceans which are currently underexploited. This could contribute to the region’s economic growth, eradication of poverty, which speaks to AU agenda 2063 and some UN-SDGs.


Through the CSIR, we contribute to a host of other initiatives such as the GEO Eco and GEO BON. CSIR is a principal investigator responsible for the Lowveld pilot site and generated products will contribute to the GEO ECO initiative and assist decision makers in the areas of environmental studies.


CSIR is continuously contributing to GEOBON. They are involved in the definition of essential biodiversity variables (EBVs) and contributed to the published paper on definition of remote sensing based EBVs. We are also involved in GEOBON’s Ecosystem Structure Working Group – focusing on the measures of ecosystem state and how it is changing, including condition of and change in the structural components that maintain biodiversity characteristics. Through all these initiatives, we will contribute to EO knowledge, skills as well as products related to ecosystem quality and condition.


It is our hope that GEO continues to contribute and make an impact on achieving the AU-Agenda 2063 through EO and also ensure that the UN-SDGs are realised.


With the current global political climate on issues relating to climate change and global trade, it has become even more critical to work together, especially with private sector, to develop innovative EO products to curb the challenges while also contributing to the economy.


We urge for further collaborations and more initiatives which will enable us all to achieve the implementation of GEOSS. AfriGEOSS will also continue to seek partners both continentally and globally for collaboration. We need to also make more progress in developing national data sharing policies and promoting data sharing. We, as South Africa, will continue to support AfriGEOSS and the implementation of GEOSS.

As we draw to a conclusion, South Africa, as the lead co-chair for GEO, will continue to support the Secretariat and ensure that the objectives of the GEO secretariat are realised. We would be promoting that GEO can only be effective if all regions are contributors to this vision, particularly the youth and entrepreneurs located in the Global South. We are also looking to leverage GEO flagship initiatives and collaborate with other regional GEOSS to leap frog the implementation of GEOSS in Africa


I thank you, Chair.


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